CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - One in six people go hungry or lack consistent access to adequate food in South Carolina.
A feeding program at MUSC wants to make sure children are receiving a nutritious meal during the summer. The food management company, Sodexo, at MUSC is behind the effort too.
The summer feeding program at the hospital launched in 2015. MUSC was the first hospital in the Southeast to offer it. Children 18 and under can receive a free breakfast and lunch every day of the week throughout the summer.
Breakfast is served from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Sodexo Wellness Dietitian at MUSC Debbie Petitpain says food insecurity and health problems go hand and hand.
"The problem is when the school season is over, the children that rely on the national school breakfast and school lunch program to make sure they're getting adequate nutrition, they're at risk since there's no school lunch anymore," Petitpain said.
The program is federally funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"The children can select for themselves from a variety of healthy and beautiful type of food," Petitpain said. "Everyday we offer two or three hot entrees we offer several different types of vegetables of every color of the rainbow, the children get to be exposed to a variety of food. They get to select the choices that they like so we know that'll increase the chance that they'll actually eat it and that they'll have a pleasurable experience."
Carmen Bowman is one the cashiers. She's been working at MUSC for about 6 years.
"Just to see the excitement on the kid's faces really just made my heart leap for joy," Bowman said. "I'm a person that loves kids, when they come through my register I sometimes let them ring up their own meal."
The meals are fresh and have to be balanced. Food groups offered for lunch are an entree, veggies, grains, and milk.
Lair Wilson has been serving food for 16 years at MUSC. She says she enjoys the children.
"We get them in here we get them out of here and the same kids that come for breakfast they come back again for lunch," Wilson said.
Bowman says she gets really excited when the children come through her register.
"The happiness the joy, that they're going to be sitting and having a great meal it really just does me great," Bowman said.
In the first two years, the hospital served about 7,500 meals locally.
"As a health care worker, heath care clinician, it's challenging for me to think that I'm taking the best care of my patient if they don't know where their next meal is coming from," Petitpain said
She says all healthcare institutions can be participating in the program.
"That's really exciting to think if we have served 7,500 meals in the first two years and then every other hospital in the nation started following suit, all of a sudden we're really helping to move the needle to fight food insecurity in our local community," Petitpain said.
If you'd like to find a summer feeding site close to you, you can do the following:
- Text: FOOD to 877-877
- Call: 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479)
- Call: 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273)
- Visit: www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks